Sleuthing with sound: Understanding vessel activity in marine protected areas using passive acoustic monitoring
Monitoring compliance and enforcing laws are integral to ensuring the success of marine protected areas (MPAs), but traditional monitoring techniques are costly and resource demanding. Three SoundTrap 300 recorders were deployed for one month between 1 July and September 12, 2018 to collect acoustic data in two marine parks off southeastern Australia: one recorder in Cod Grounds Marine Park (CGMP) and two in the Solitary Islands Marine Park National Park Zone (SIMP NPZ). Extractive activities such as fishing are not permitted in these zones. Raven Pro 2.0 was used to analyze data for vessel presence. Transmission loss equations for each site were generated using patrol boat GPS tracks and used to predict if acoustically recorded vessels were inside park boundaries based on received sound levels. In CGMP, 41 vessels were predicted within the park during the recording period; 34 vessels were predicted within the SIMP NPZ. Thursdays and Saturdays were identified as peak days for vessel presence in CGMP while Thursdays were the peak day in the SIMP NPZ. Most vessel activity at both locations took place between 06:00 and 17:00 AEST. Peak vessel presence in CGMP occurred at 09:00 AEST while the peak vessel presence in the SIMP NPZ occurred at 16:00 AEST. Approximately 12.7 h of vessel sounds were recorded within CGMP; approximately 3.8 h of vessel noise were recorded within the SIMP NPZ. Passive acoustic monitoring of vessel patterns in Australian Marine Parks has provided valuable insight to redirect compliance decisions on how to focus surveillance efforts.